Saturday, July 26, 2014

Flyover Lives

I honestly cannot remember how I got this book (is that terrible???) but I know it was for review and I received it awhile ago. In my defense, it had gotten buried with end of the year school projects and I've unearthed it and here it is.

Flyover Lives - Diane Johnson
Flyover Lives: A Memoir
Growing up in the small river town of Moline, Illinois, Diane Johnson always dreamed of floating down the Mississippi and off to see the world. Years later, at home in France, a French friend teases her: Indifference to history—that’s why you Americans seem so na├»ve and don’t really know where you’re from.”

The j’accuse stayed with Johnson. Were Americans indifferent to history? Her own family seemed always to have been in the Midwest. Surely they had got there from somewhere? In digging around, she discovers letters and memoirs written by generations of stalwart pioneer ancestors that testify to more complex times than the derisive nickname "The Flyover" gives the region credit for.

With the acuity and sympathy that her novels are known for, she captures the magnetic pull of home against our lust for escape and self-invention. This spellbinding memoir will appeal to fans of Bill Bryson, Patricia Hampl, and Annie Dillard.


I'm going to say right off the bat, I didn't love it. I had a really hard time finishing it because to me, it's not anything that I thought it was going to be. Which usually is fine, but in this case I had been hoping more for a historic account of her ancestors growing up in the Midwest way back when. In actuality, it's a memoir (which is my own fault for not paying attention) so it's not really what I thought it was. Then the prologue is about her time in France with several military generals and the like who all come off really snobbish and that just set the tone for me. I don't know if it was the fact I can't relate to them at all that turned me off or what but from then on I couldn't get into the book. 

It's not all about her though, we do read a little bit about her childhood growing up in Moline, Illinois. We also read a little bit about her great-great-great grandmother, but it's not even a very large section so while I  understand it's supposed to be the historical part of this book, it feels weird being in the author's memoir? But we go from that to the author talking about her career in Hollywood and the whole thing felt like a weird transition that doesn't fit with the rest of the book. You know what it feels like? It feels like that girlfriend we all have that one up's you on everything. You say you did this, she did it better AND with so and so. 

Overall? I didn't love it. I have friends who absolutely adored this book and have told me within the last week I am an idiot if I didn't love this book. And maybe I am, but meh- I'll pass next time. 

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